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A sampling of folklife and cultural tourism projects in the U.S.
Case Study: Louisiana Folklife Festival
Monroe, Louisiana event featuring state-wide Louisiana Culture
The Louisiana Folklife Festival is billed on the event's website as highlighting "the continuing work of the Louisiana Folklife Program within the Louisiana Division of the Arts, Department of Culture, Recreation, and Tourism in order to document, preserve and promote Louisiana's folk culture resources." Held each year during the second weekend of September in Monroe, Louisiana, the festival celebrates the diversity of cultures that make up the state's rich heritage. Mike Luster, the Festival's director, is called on each year to produce two festivals in one—that is, a festival that is a success as both a local event and a tourism venture. The festival's success is based in large part on Luster's ability to balance these competing interests, but he is often faced with the fact that these multiple expectations exceed the festival's budget.
Luster's dilemma is the same as that facing many local communities interested in attracting a tourist audience—how to continue to serve local audiences while expanding cultural events to tourists for economic benefit. The details of Luster's situation may be instructive to those developing similar enterprises. Much of the funding for the festival comes from the City of Monroe, and each year local business leaders on the Festival's board want proof that the Festival is bringing in significant tourist money. These same business leaders also insist that local advertising must be equitably distributed to each and every local station and paper and have difficulty grasping the wisdom of buying advertising out of town.
Luster, on the other hand, feels that advertising in the Little Rock paper could bring significant numbers of tourists from Arkansas to the festival, but has difficulty getting the board to see the bigger picture. Luster would like to be able to double his PR budget, but recognizing that this is unlikely, he has built an attractive and accessible website for the festival in an attempt to make up for the low level of publicity outside Louisiana. Local and tourism interests also compete in the selection of performing artists, for while prominent artists from around the state are necessary to draw audiences from outside Monroe, locals also demand that Monroe bands be well represented.
Luster is now beginning to use evaluation in his work to enable him to prove the Festival's economic impact. He does not currently have the funding to produce a major economic impact study but has implemented several low-cost solutions to get at least some of the data he needs. He asked the Festival performers, many of whom live outside Monroe, to fill out an economic impact questionnaire; with these results he was able to substantiate the money actually spent in the city by the artists during their visit. He also asked the Monroe-West Monroe Convention and Visitors Bureau to keep track of the number of calls received about the festival. This total will enable him to argue to Monroe's mayor that the number of people who called will have an enhanced image of the city through association with the Festival. He also recently added an evaluation form to the Festival website.
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